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Top phishing scams of 2024 and how organizations can prevent them

three people looking at a phone that one of them is displaying between them

Phishing scams are a persistent and evolving threat in the digital age. They exploit human psychology and technology vulnerabilities to steal personal information, money, or access to valuable resources. Phishing is the most common form of cyber crime with about 3.4 billion emails being sent by cyber criminals each day, highlighting the importance of taking steps to ensure your organization is not vulnerable. 

Let’s look more closely at what phishing scams are and steps you can take to protect yourself and your organization’s data and information. 

What is phishing?

Phishing is a type of cyber attack that aims to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, or other personal data. This is typically done through deceptive communications, usually in the form of emails, texts, or phone calls, that appear to come from legitimate sources or someone you know. The term "phishing" is derived from the word "fishing," as attackers "bait" their victims into providing confidential information.

Most commonly, the scammer sending the email is hoping that the victim will click on a website link that may download a virus onto your device or convince you to reveal your sensitive data. The attacker may then commit identity theft, do unauthorized transactions, or gain access to more secure systems within a business or organization. 

What are the phishing scams to look out for in 2024?

There are several different types of phishing scams to always be aware of, and attackers are becoming more and more sophisticated in their attempts to fool unsuspecting individuals. Here are the most common types of phishing scams to look out for as well as specific attacks that appear to come from big companies:

1. Email Phishing

This is the most common type of phishing attack. These scams are made to appear as if they are coming from a trustworthy sender, such as someone from your company or organization, a brand you may be subscribed to, or your bank. The most important thing you can do to prevent these kinds of attacks is to carefully inspect the sender’s email address. Check that the domain address is correct down to the last letter and placement of punctuation, and verify identities in the use of what appears to be personal emails instead of business ones.

 These emails often contain urgent messages prompting you to click on a link or download an attachment. Here are a few examples for 2024:

  • Amazon: This is one of the largest online retailers in the world that many individuals and organizations utilize often. It is an effective option for scammers to imitate when trying to acquire sensitive information. They may send emails that claim there is something wrong with your account or payment information and bait you into entering your information. It is important to remember that Amazon has stated they will never ask for personal information in an email. 

  • Paypal: Emails that appear to come from Paypal may relate to your account being suspended or that you are owed a refund. The scammer sending the email is hoping that the receiver clicks on the link to be brought to a website that resembles Paypal’s and then enters their information to claim funds or reactivate their account.

  • Microsoft: When impersonating Microsoft, scammers will mention potential fraud threats to your device and recommend downloading a protection software. There will be links or attachments to download that will give the attacker access to your data. These suspicious emails can be reported in Microsoft Outlook.

  • Fedex: Scam emails that appear to come from Fedex are highly common, with the scammer listing an urgent request for customs fees, stating that your package is being held, or some other issue with a delivery. Fedex has stated it will not request information, invoices, account numbers, or passwords in unsolicited emails. 

2. Spear Phishing

Spear phishing targets specific individuals or organizations. These scams are personalized and often involve more research to make the attack more convincing. For example, an email may appear to come from a supervisor or manager that requests sensitive information or invites you to click on a link to a shared drive. It is crucial to double check with the person through another channel or in person before opening a suspicious link.

3. Whaling

Whaling is a form of spear phishing that targets high-profile individuals like executives or politicians. The emails often contain personalized information to trick the target into revealing sensitive information or making large financial transactions. Always be sure to check the domain address is correct down to the last letter and placement of punctuation, and verify identities in the use of what appears to be personal emails instead of business ones.

4. Clone Phishing

In clone phishing, scammers create a nearly identical copy of a legitimate email that you have received in the past, replacing legitimate links or attachments with malicious ones. Look out for emails that appear to be duplicates and be aware of possibly misspelled email addresses. 

5. Vishing (Voice Phishing) 

Vishing involves phone calls from scammers posing as legitimate companies or even a family member to extract personal information. In recent times with advancing technology like generative AI, scammers are able to create voices that sound like a friend or family member asking for financial assistance. They may also pose as someone from your bank asking for your account details following suspicious activity. Always trust your instincts; if it seems suspicious that someone is asking for money or information over the phone, chances are it is a scam. 

6. Smishing (SMS Phishing) 

Smishing involves sending fraudulent text messages that appear to come from legitimate sources, containing links to malicious websites or prompting recipients to call a fake customer service number. Always assume that if a text message is asking for personal information, it is a scam and should be reported and deleted. 

How to prevent phishing attacks

Phishing attacks are increasingly sophisticated and can have devastating consequences for individuals and organizations alike. Here are some practical steps you can take to protect yourself and your organization:

1. Be skeptical of unsolicited messages

Always think before you click links from emails, especially ones that are unknown to you. Verify the authenticity of emails, text messages, or phone calls that request personal information or urgent actions. Look for grammar mistakes, use of exclamation marks, and unexpected attachments or links.

2. Check domains and URLs carefully

Hover over links to see the actual URL before clicking. Look for misspellings or slight variations in domain names to determine its authenticity.

3. Never share your passwords

It is important to remember to never share your password or other highly sensitive information over the phone or an email, especially if it appears that an individual or company is asking for it. 

4. Enable multi-factor authentication

If possible, always choose to enable this feature. This will require more than just a password to gain access to information or secure systems, adding an extra layer of security. 

5. Utilize security software

Install and regularly update antivirus software, firewalls, and anti-phishing tools to detect and block malicious activities. It is critical to make sure that all software your organization uses on phones and computers is up to date.

6. Train employees

Stay informed about the latest phishing techniques and train your employees on how to recognize and avoid phishing attempts. Be sure that everyone knows how to create a strong password and that they are different ones for each site. 

Phishing is a prevalent and dangerous form of cyber attack that preys on human error. By understanding how phishing works and taking proactive steps to protect yourself, you can reduce the risk of falling victim to these scams. Always be cautious with unsolicited communications, verify the authenticity of requests, and use security measures to safeguard your organization’s information.



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